We all know cardio is an important component to better health, but what many of us don't know is that it's not necessary to become a triathlete in order to reap its many physical and psychological benefits.
And that's great news, since research shows that North Americans are too sedentary. Reports show that Canadians and Americans are way behind the recommended guidelines for physical activity – with lack of regular exercise listed as the cause of our biggest health risks.
Did you know?
- Cardio = cardiovascular = exercise designed for heart health
Benefits of cardio exercise
The benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise are plentiful.
- Cardio can lead to better physical health, such as:
- Improved heart and lung health
- Stronger muscles and joints
- Balanced weight
- Lowered risk of disease in general
- Improved quality of life:
Benefits can kick in right away!
- Within just one week, you could experience:
- Improved circulation
- Increased energy and relaxation
- After three months, you could experience:
- Improved posture and balance
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Increased confidence
- A more positive outlook on life
- Better all-round health
Starting a cardio program is easy
Getting started can be as involved as joining a gym and signing up for personal training sessions or as simple as slipping on some comfortable shoes and going for a walk around the block. It's up to you.
As with any exercise routine, it's always best to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional first. Once you get the go-head, make sure to follow any special instructions or tips you're given.
Cardio exercise options
- Elliptical training
More advanced options:
- Cross-country skiing
- Jumping rope
Health experts recommend:
- A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week
- That translates to 30 minutes a day, five days a week
- Moderate intensity = brisk walking
- Errands like yard work and cleaning house count, too!
Tips for success
- Use the buddy system: Accountability is a great motivator
- Pick someone at a similar level of fitness so you don't get discouraged
- Start slow: Consistency is better than burnout
- If you need to start off with three days a week, that's OK
- Shorter sessions can also be more manageable
- Three 10-minute sessions generate the same benefits as one 30-minute session
- Even just taking the stairs instead of the elevator will make a difference
- Mix it up: Cross-training is fun
- Also, you burn more calories when you work different muscles